QUALITY DEER MANAGEMENT: SOMETIMES MAKES FOR A TOUGH CHOICE
Seems like every other page in your favorite hunting magazine has to do with deer management and steps on how to turn your property into a whitetail powerhouse. But as we all know, it’s one thing to preach it and completely different to practice it. This past weekend I hunted at my Uncle’s ranch in the Texas Hill Country where he’s implemented quality management for over 20 years. From planting nutritious food sources to honestly holding back on bucks that need another year or two, the results speak for themselves. Though having an effective program in place makes a gigantic difference on the caliber deer you see, sometimes it makes for a tough break.
Opening day of the Texas gun season kicked off this past Saturday and unfortunately, most of Central Texas was being hit, yet again with more rain. With temperatures finally falling into the high 40’s, the later part of opening day looked to be promising for some good action. With the skies clearing, I packed up my gear and headed out to the blind, hoping for a shot at an absolute stud.
For someone like myself who grew up hunting either from a treestand or with my back up against a tree, I’m really getting used to hunting out of a ground blind down here in Texas. Not only is hunting during times of heavy reason much more tolerable, these blinds help to keep you scent to a minimum.
As the hunt started to progress, one of the first bucks that made an appearance was a 12 pointer with a split browtine and a kicker off his G2, hardly a borderline buck. After poking his head out of some neck high brush, he tucked back in a slipped around through some thick cedar trees making any shot impossible. His rack was as heavy as they come in the Hill Country and his body was equally in line with the bone on his head. That right there was a beauty of a buck that I hope to have another encounter with soon.
As the hours rolled past, young bucks were seen pushing hot does around in a manner that suggested that they were the big dude in the area. Around 1:45p, I caught a glimpse of two bucks working their way across the trail on my left. At first glance there was a young 4 point grazing on rye grass and another buck that I couldn’t quite make out. Upon closer inspection it was a 3.5 year old 10 point with a solid body working his way through the brush. As I raised my rifle and took off the safety I thought to myself, “could this buck use another year?”, hardly a thought that I ever had before.
After watching him for a few minutes and flipping my safety back to safe, I decided to let him walk. What a tough decision it was to let a truly magnificent buck walk on by. But that is what QDM is all about, letting a great buck turn into a giant. And as difficult as it was to let him walk, I know that an additional year or two of antler and body growth on a whitetail can take a deer from the 140’s and can help push them well into the 160’s-170’s.
Though passing a nice buck is never an easy thing to do, be confident that your actions will work for you in seasons to come. Whether your enforcing antler restrictions on yourself or you’re hunting an area that has state mandated restrictions, feel good that you’re doing the right thing in the long run. Passing on younger deer make for older, more mature animals and incredible hunts for future seasons.